IT’S ‘HALFTIME’ IN AMERICA: In late December, we told you about artists worth watching this year, notably writer Ben Fountain,whose short-story collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, won accolades but whose follow-up debut novel had been a long struggle. Well, that novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, is officially out tomorrow, the story of a battle-scarred young soldier who walks into the media and pop-culture tornado that is a Dallas Cowboys halftime show in George Bush’s America. Ben got profiled and reviewed in Sunday’s DMN. He’ll be on KERA’s Think with Krys Boyd on Wednesday, and on May 18, he’ll be doing the Arts & Letters Live thing at the DMA with Alexander Maksik.
NEA TO MAJOR KONG: The National Endowment of the Arts’ recent list of grantees includes Nile Southern, son of Terry Southern, who’s working on a documentary about his late father, Texas novelist, humorist and screenwriter of Doctor Strangelove and Easy Rider. The $20,000 will help a film about the once-influential ’60s figure (even appearing in the crowd on the Beatle’s Sgt. Peppers album cover), a film that Nile Southern has been working on for years and which he’s now editing at home.
SMU PRESS STILL DEAD: The DMN’s book editor Mike Merschel had had enough when he learned what SMU’s new basketball coach and associate basketball coach are going to make — several times the entire budget of the once-acclaimed, now-moribund SMU Press. You may recall that two years ago, our state’s oldest university press was pretty much given the death penalty, somewhat like SMU’s football team, but unlike the football team, it doesn’t have any high-powered, deep-pocketed alumni backers eager to re-establish the school’s glory. The press only had a number of literary notables around the country like Ann Beattie and Richard Ford who were appalled by the school’s decision. So the press has languished. And so Merschel got ticked off and blogged about it. He was attacked in the comments section for clearly not knowing that donors pay the basketball coaches’ salary, not the university — an argument he never made. So his point still stands: What do SMU — and its donors — stand for?